Object ID is Needed
trade in art, antiques, and other cultural objects now constitutes
one of the most prevalent categories of international crime. Law-enforcement
agencies, in particular, have long recognized that documentation
is crucial to the protection of cultural objects, for law-enforcement
officials can rarely recover and return objects that have not
been photographed and adequately described. Unfortunately, very
few objects have been documented to a level that can materially
assist in their recovery in the event of theft. Even for objects
that have been so documented, the information collected is extremely
variable. It is important, therefore, that efforts be made to
increase public awareness of the need to make adequate, standardized
descriptions of objects. More and better documentation will not
only assist crime detection and the recovery of stolen objects,
but also have considerable value as a crime-prevention strategy.
It is one
thing to encourage the compilation of descriptions of objects
as a security measure, but quite another to develop effective
means of circulating this documentation to organizations that
can assist in the recovery of the objects if they are stolen.
Ideally, the information that can identify a stolen or illegally
exported object should be able to travel at least as fast as the
object itself. This will mean that the information may have to
cross national borders and circulate among a number of organizations.
The development of electronic networks makes this effort technically
possible. But digital information and computer networks to transmit
information will solve only part of the problem. Also needed are
the standards that will make it possible to exchange information
in a form that is intelligible to both systems and people. Object
ID meets the second of these requirements by providing a documentation
standard for the information needed to identify objects.